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Ocean Acidification: The Hidden Side of Climate Change

By Claire Ahn

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When people think about climate change, most think about greenhouse gasses in the environment, the smoke that whifts up from factories and fuel cars, and the degrading air quality.

 

However, the side of climate change that is often not mentioned is what happens in the ocean. From the outside, the ocean looks like a serene and peaceful sight of blue and green. However, underwater is a different story.

Ocean Acidification

The problem parallel to climate change that occurs in the ocean is ocean acidification. Ocean acidification occurs when carbon dioxide in the air is absorbed into seawater. The ocean naturally dissolves carbon dioxide into sea waters to regulate the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

 

However, because of the increased amounts of carbon dioxide in the air due to pollution and human-activities, a significant increase of carbon dioxide in the water occurs. This leads to the ocean not being able to maintain a balanced amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

 

When this occurs, the ocean’s pH level, or the scale of how basic or acidic a substance is, drops. This means that ocean water becomes more acidic than it is supposed to be. Thus, there are several consequences that occur.

Corals

One of the severe consequences is the effect on corals. Coral, itself, is not a living organism, but there are many organisms called polyps that live on the coral and create the colors of coral that we see. However, when the ocean’s acidity levels increase, the growth of corals is limited which leads to an erosion of corals.

 

The erosion signifies a loss of species of polyps and several other animals that live in coral environments. Additionally, acidic oceans negatively affect the shells of marine animals.

 

Due to the less amounts of carbonate available in the oceans, shells are not able to form as properly as they should, making shells more vulnerable. Lastly, acidification affects the fish in the ocean. The acid in the ocean changes the acidity of fish blood, which increases their use of energy for their blood.

 

Using more energy for their blood circulation, their energy for their normal tasks are limited. Thus, fish often move slower, have reduced senses, and other limitations that hurt their chances of survival

Therefore, ocean acidification is a hidden but lesser known issue that has devastating consequences on the planet.

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